Tag Archives: Running

Hound Dog

Don’t let a story of a cute hound dog fool you, the Hound Dog Half Marathon is a tough race. To be fair, the half marathon course is more down hill than up hill. The course is adorned with beautiful hillsides, charming goat farms and friendly volunteers. The hard part of the course is the last five miles, straight up hill on a gravel trail that once was home to the Tennessee & Alabama Central Railroad. That was before the Civil War and before a the hound Ludivine ran the course and the story went viral.

The Hound Dog Half was renamed after last year’s race. Ludivine scampered out of her yard and joined the first running of the Elkmont 1/2 Marathon. The story made national news and put the small race on the map. Saturday morning the small townhall had a line of crazed runners out the door for packet pick-up. Ludivine greeted the runners. I was lucky enough to get a photo with the famous K-9. Ludivine was there for the start of the 13.1 mile race. However, she wouldn’t run this year. 

At the start of the race, Ludivine howled and moaned in sadness as the hundreds of runners started the rainy adventure. Poor dog! The runners started to chant, “let her run, let her run”. She is just a country dog, but now Ludivine is priceless to the community of Elkmont. No one would want to see the hound dog hurt. It was still sad to see her not run. 

The first mile the course passes an old cotton gin. Perfect small town race. This year, I noticed the community had added permanent road signs to mark the entire course and each mile was marked by a cute dog house sign. Super classy for a second year race! Even the Limestone County Sheriff’s Deputy protected the runners from a blonde golden retriever mix. Unlike Ludivine this dog didn’t like running.

Up and down we ran as the rain fell on us. I still made friends and chatted with people along the way despite the hilly terrain and dreary conditions. A covered bridge, an old church and all the wildlife and farm animals along the way made for a great but challenging run. A blood hound made this race famous, but the community made it first class. After I finished, I had a great bowl of chicken stew and chatted with the wonderful people of Elkmont. If you get a chance to run this charming course, please do… It is tough, but run it for the community of Elkmont. 

Purple Bib

FullSizeRenderThe last 80.9% of the Dopey Challenge would take me through all of Walt Disney World’s theme parks – over 39.3 miles. I ran a half marathon on Saturday and then a marathon on Sunday. The final two races were completely different than the first two. The crowds were large, and the distance longer. During the last two races I was in coral P. So here are my three P’s from running with a purple bib and starting in coral P.

I met a lot of great people along the way. Erin in corral P, from Boston, who owned a service dog. But, the service dog was on vacation on a sheep farm in Connecticut. I think this is great! People get vacations, dogs should too! I ran the first 7 miles of the marathon with Brittney & Molly from upstate New York! Fun girls and they helped me pace myself during the start. My most memorable person I met along the way was a tall, cowbell ringing, Mississippi State alumni. Coolest thing was seeing him at ESPN Wild World of Sports cheering for his runner. I took it upon myself to ask to ring his long handle, maroon cowbell! Six miles later, I arrived at the finish line, there he was with bell in hand. Didn’t get the man’s name, but he remembered my name from the bib. He shouted, “Hail State, Ruth Marie”, as he rang his cowbell above his head!

I had fun! It took me a while to get the pleasure part of running lots of mile with thousands of people. It took me until Sunday to start having fun, after meeting Brittney and Molly and sweating three gallons before entering the Magic Kingdom. I told myself to chill out and enjoy my surroundings. Each mile I met new people, saw Disney characters and classic landscape. One suggestion to make the pleasure a little greater! They need Coke on the course. Disney does a fantastic job of logistics during their races. However, the only had lemon lime Powerade on the course, other than water. Give us a little Coca-Cola! Don’t fret, CK had a Coke for me at ESPN!

The whole day was driven by a purpose. I wanted to see if I could do four races in four days. Each day the race was twice as long as the day before. When I began running to get in shape, I remember saying “can’t” a lot. The negative thoughts of I can’t or couldn’t do something was far gone. I can do it! Everyone running Dopey signed up for different reasons. Some people ran because it was a Disney event. Some people ran to recover from injury or illness. So people did it just for fun. I did it to complete the goal. I had a lot of friends who encouraged me from a distance… cheering me on through text messages and Facebook posts! Thank you to all the people on the course, friends back home and around the world! It was a fantastic adventure.

Orange Bib

BlingI think it was during the crazy snopocalypse during the winter of when I signed up for the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World in Florida. I must have been thinking, “I can have a runcation in early January in Florida… Bonus”! Little did I know what I was getting into. Since I signed up for this adventure, much has happened, especially shifting career fields. Undiscouraged by change, I am here and have successfully completed two races or 19.1% of the total challenge miles. Here are a few things I have learned about the Dopey Challenge.

It is an exercise in sleep not a running competition. A good friend gave me this advice before I left for the Land of Mickey Mouse. It is true. Sleep is your best friend! Don’t go out bar hopping or watching the fireworks over EPCOT or The Magic Kingdom. Put your pajamas on and sleep as much as you can. I feel like Ragnar Relay has been a valuable training excersice for this endeavor. I told someone that the Dopey Challenge is like Ragnar with a hotel room involved. It will be bed time soon!

If you don’t like Disney, don’t waste your time! You have to understand the magic of Disney and the wonder in the hearts of its fans to be able to bear the grumpy nature of the novice runner/walker. I mean no disrespect by saying this. However, etiquette is not high on the participant’s list. I have only seen 3 participants who have raised their hands before making an abrupt change from run/jog to walk/dead stop to take a photo of Elsa! I just let it go! There was one lady that I tapped on the shoulder because it was dark and I was about to buldoze her. She turned and spoke words that are not in Disney movies. Mickey would not have been happy! However, it is enjoyable seeing all the costumes, lines to have your photo made with characters and the volunteers out in their oversized four finger white gloves directing the race participants. I have to remind myself to”HAVE FUN”! It is really difficult for me to just let go and enjoy myself.

You will encounter some interesting characters. And I am not talking about Mickey & Donald! On the bus trip to the 5K on Thursday, we sat behind the grown version of the redheaded “appearently”. You know the kid I am talking about. The cute kid who had appearently never been on live television before and his grampa makes him watch the Powerball! This individual talked about everything at Disney in a span of 40 minutes in the exact same speech pattern as the kids. Apparently they are related! The next human to catch my eye was the middle school girl who shuffled the entire race while texting on her Samsung Galaxy. I passed her at the 3 mile mark and then again after I made a pit stop. She was shuffling both times. I saw her finish… She was still shuffling and texting. Maybe she was reading from her Kindle app. The event makes for great people watching.

Go see Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center! This has nothing to do with the Dopey Challenge but everyone should see her! They should visit, see Atlantis and then write a letter to their congress person to fund human space flight more robustly! I think if Walt Disney could visit us in 2016, he would be frustrated with the level of progress we have made since the 1960s. I think he would want The Walt Disney Company to help fund human space flight. Can you imagine the push to Mars if space flight was as popular as Walt Disney World! The Disney magic is fueled by innovation.

To conclude, just remember to have fun if you find yourself running the Dopey Challenge, enjoy the ride! You will meet many interesting and creative people who may or may not have ever run before. But more important, it is our job as adults to inspire the next Walt Disney or Werner Von Braun so we can get the heck off this rock and go to Mars in the not so distant future.

Keep Moving Forward

IMG_5121In the past on New Year’s Eve, I have posted a blog entry about the previous adventures and accomplishments of that given year. Not this year, well not last year! It is January 1, 2016 and I have chosen to write about the future. The year wasn’t bad, 2015 gave me lots and I feel like I learned and grew as a human tremendously. But I only posted twice to GraphiteFree in 2015. I didn’t even have a reflection post when I left the USSRC after 12 years of service. In the words of Walt Disney, “keep moving forward”.

So lets talk about goals. Many leadership and management gurus set parameters for goals. But most everyone can agree that goals need to be specific, measurable, timely and specific to the person or organization. Dave Ramsey adds they must be in writing. This is true! If a goal is in writing it is more permanent, even if written in graphite by your trusty Dixon Ticonderoga. So I am writing down a rough sketch of my goals for 2016, for all see.

I have set lofty goals for myself in 2016. For one reason, I turn 40 this year. But most importantly, I want to focus more in 2016.  The year 2015, brought lots of change for me. I seemed distracted through most of the year. I need focus! Setting goals will help me be a better human.

Focus more on my individual and professional growth in 2016.  I would like to attend three trainings or conferences which will give me better understanding and professional knowledge of being a camp professional. I have said for year, I want to own or build my own camp. It is time to starting making that dream a reality. Goals can make dreams more than empty wishes. I have always wanted to get my wilderness first aid certification or attend a class at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming. May not go to NOLS in 2016, but I want to do more than simply push things off until next year.

Volunteer more in the community around me. I have always wanted more time to volunteer. After leaving the USSRC, I had more time, but volunteering didn’t increase. I learned really quickly, I have to schedule volunteering just like I schedule all my adventures. I simply have to schedule them with the same level of priority as I schedule running races or spending time with friends and family. In 2016, I will be volunteering as a race director. I am well on my way to doing more.

One of my favorite races is the Huntsville Half Marathon. In 2016, the half marathon will be on my birthday. I am convinced, I can get faster if I just work harder. In the process of training for an Ironman in 2016, I want to PR the half marathon on my birthday. That would be a great way to turn 40. I will run more trails, train for an Ironman, hopefully do a relay in Kentucky and many other goals.  But I won’t bore you with it at the moment.

This morning CK shared a quote Facebook with me.  Rather than wishing everyone a Happy New Year; a dude on Space Hipsters proclaimed, Happy Arbitrary Solar Orbit Completion Day. A new way of looking at the start to the new year. I want to look forward rather than backwards. I want to make goals not resolutions. I want to be a great human and not a mediocre human. What will you do in 2016?

People of Encouragement

PandaWorking at Space Camp I meet a lot of people in a given year or even in a given week.  I have met moon walkers, generals, distinguished educators, politicians and celebrities in the years I have worked at Space Camp.  I probably meet 300 to 400 new people each year.  Beyond all the “big wigs”, I have met truly remarkable people who live normal lives and touch people in dramatic ways. This blog post is meant to celebrate not only the people who I have met in my 38 years of walking on this earth, but to point out a few people who have changed the way I look at life during 2014.  This is my Mount Rushmore of impactful people who I have met in 2014.  Please, don’t be discouraged if you met me pre-2014, I didn’t get this Mount Rushmore idea till now, but you guys are cool too!

Looking back on 2014, a lot of what I did revolved around triathlons and training for Ironman Chattanooga.  A stranger in February who I met at the YMCA and later would be a friend was Laura Fiscus. She is a super encourager, an Ironman herself, met me and unconditionally encouraged me each and every time she saw me.  Laura is made from the same stock at Sandy Henson.  I met Sandy in 2012!  I saw Laura at races around Huntsville and each time she made me feel like I could finish Ironman.  I even saw her a half dozen times in Chattanooga from swim start to on the run and even at the finish, I think.  She had no clue who I was or what I was doing the first time she spoke to me.  This is remarkable to me in an era of self-absorption.  Laura, asked about my training, encouraged my progression, and cheered me up when I was down.  Wow… I want to be like that.  She spent the inaugural IM Chattanooga serving others as volunteer.  So many from Huntsville were volunteers. I want to be like that.  In 2015, my plan is to be a volunteer for IM Chattanooga, and then race it again in 2016, because of people like Laura.  Fun twist of fate, Laura gave me my Rocket City Marathon medal at the finish line.

Each year, I meet a few hundred staff members at Space Camp.  This May we hired an unusual member to our team.  We have lots of fantastic staff members, but this kid was different and represents all the wonderful staff at the USSRC.  She was a missionary kid who spoke Chinese and worked well with our students coming from China.  Caitlin Bridges had “J-O-Y down in her heart, deep, deep down in her heart”.  It was like working at Camp of the Rising Son each time I spoke with her.  I didn’t get to know Caitlin as well as other crew trainers, but she made Ed Buckbee happy.  Therefore, she must be remarkable.   Her willingness to server others was motivating to me.  Just this week, I heard she was planning her own mission trip to Africa!  Buckbee plus helping people in Africa, this may be more monumental than walking on the moon.  I even met a moon walker this year, Harrison Schmitt.  Caitlin reminded me each time we spoke that camp is for the campers, however she never said those famous words.  I am hoping she visit Space Camp & Aviation Challenge this summer! 

I meet a lot of cool astronauts and celebrities beneath the Saturn V at camp, but this year I had the pleasure of hearing Dave McGillivray speak to a group of marathoners and supporters before the Rocket City Marathon.  McGillivray is the race director for the Boston Marathon.  If that isn’t enough, he has lived an adventurous life through running and endurance sports.  He ran across the United States in 1978 to raise money for the Jimmy Fund to help fight childhood cancers.  He was the original Forest Gump.  He didn’t just run across America once, he did it several times.  His life is a motivational testament to encouraging others.  He is known for running the Boston Marathon after the race is completed and cleaned up each year.  He shared a story of a young lady in a wheelchair who wanted to run Boston, but only could run 26.2 feet.  McGillivray agreed and marked off the distance.  The young lady ran her distance in half the time she was estimated to run.  McGillivray presented her a medal and the race went on.  Coming down the home stretch during McGillivray’s midnight marathon after the marathon, the young lady was there to present him with a hand made medal.  I can’t imagine how many people have been encouraged by him.  Finishing a marathon is a confidence boost for anyone, but that young lady was given a gift and allowed to live a dream.  Some people would have just said no!  One of my biggest take aways from McGillivray’s talk was not just the the young lady asked to run and ran, but she did it her way.  Everyone has to run their own race no matter the distance.  Whether a marathon, a triathlon, or a cake walk, everyone has a race to run.  I am reading his book, Last Picked, over my Christmas vacation.

My last spot on my Mount Rushmore of people who impacted my life is not just one person, but a group who motivated and encouraged not just me.  On July 31st my dear friend Rhonda Cox was struck by a van while she was training on her bike.  She was hit from behind at a high rate of speed.  I meet Rhonda years ago, so she doesn’t qualify for this list.  However, the people I met for the first time this year were the thousand or more strangers who joined in prayer whether by the Facebook group set up for her recovery or from a friend of a friend praying for Rhonda at their local church.  She has had a remarkable recovery.  Each day this group of people have prayed and followed her progress.  Through visiting with Rhonda I have been lucky enough to meet many of her friends and family for the first time.  However, the group as a whole is the most important. Since the accident, Rhonda has shared many stories of how God’s hand was on her recovery event down to the EMTs who responded and the medical flight team who air lifted her to Peoria, Illinois.  I am thankful for the army of people who I have met and prayed along side this year for Rhonda.  Amazing to think, Rhonda is running!  It hasn’t been six months since the accident, through God’s abounding power and grace she is strong and encouraging us all to run a little harder and faster!

In the years between my birth and last January I have met many wonderful people who I could write books about given the time.  So I hope this look at only four from 2014, makes sense to the reader.  I have been blessed and encouraged this year.  I have learned so much through my own trials and mistakes.  This year I have been encouraged to be a better human being by others.  I truly hope I can return the favor of encouragement in 2015.  To everyone who has been there for me, thank you from the bottom of my heart!  Merry Christmas to all!

Running Through 2012

This has been a great year! I spent more time with my wonderful family. I have expanded my circle of friends, strengthened bonds with old friends. This was year I proclaimed, I am never too busy for my family and friends. I look forward to 2013 with fond memories of 2012 in my heart! Here are my top ten adventures of 2012… in no particular order.

Trip to Big D – A two days before Christmas my brother took his sons to a Dallas Cowboys game and I got to tag along. We drove from Mississippi to Tyler, Texas, birthplace of Johnny Football. Ate at the coolest and best Tex-Mex restaurant I have had the pleasure of eating at. Sunday morning we drove to the stadium for the game. The game unfortunately was a loss, but the adventure is the most important thing. The highlight of the trip was arguing with Rhett and Reece about having their photo made with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. The argument turned out positive, you can see by their smiles!

Camping at DeSoto State Park – In January, Amazon, Snapper, Speedo and I went camping near Mentone, Alabama in DeSoto State Park. It was the coldest weekend of the year. The low temperature was 18 Fahrenheit. We survived the cold temperatures, but we should have brought along a bag chair or two. During this camping trip the four of us made a pact to run the Warrior Dash in Georgia in May. It was apparent after that camping trip, 2012 would be a very different year and it has been.

Animals – Having the greatest dog in the world has definitely been a highlight of the past eight years. He is my most faithful companion. He is never more than a few steps away from me at home. He would follow me to work if I let him. His kind and gentle eyes make all things bad ok. This year we lost George, our giant white rabbit. Also during 2012, we added two rabbits to our petting zoo. These two rabbits gave us a litter of 7 kits. Have the worlds greatest dog and bunny rabbits only make me want a few goats, maybe some chickens and hopefully a pig or two someday.

Pirate Night with Hoot – It is always fun when the story includes Hoot Gibson. However, when you cap the night off with eye-patches and mustaches you know you have made an epic memory. Hoot was the rogue Naval Captain who stood toe to toe with the notorious pirate, the Dreaded Pirate Squirrel, who was stealing food from his bird feeder. Captain Gibson fired at the enemy Squirrel with his tactical pellet gun. The squirrel fired back as the pellet ricocheted of the bird feeder. Captain Gibson was doomed to wear an eye-patch. If it is good enough for Hoot… it is good enough for his Space Camp fan club! While at Otter’s, Hoot left the room and Marcia, Snapper and myself donned mustaches and eye-patches to support Hoot in his relentless battle with the Dread Pirate Squirrel.

The Dirt Bike – One day in late August, I visited Mississippi and hung out with my brother and his sons. During a trip to Leland, Mississippi, we purchased a Honda dirt bike. Some people say they want to grow up to be an Astronaut. Some people say they want to win a Super Bowl. I can honestly say, one of my first memories, was to own a motorcycle or dirt bike. I was a stupid, novice, dork the first time I rode the little Honda. However, I loved every moment of the stupidity. I road the little bike at Christmas. I was somewhat  scared of the little bike after hurting my knee, but I learned that the little dirt bike could still be fun and safe.

Running – This was the year that Red Bull got in shape. I ran relays, 5Ks, mud races, duathlons and triathlons. It all started when Camp of the Rising Son held at 5K in April of this year. I ran the CRS run in 32:59. I finished 2012 with the Rudolph Run in Huntsville by running a 5K in 28:48. Between the two, I hurt my knee and ran a 200 mile relay with 11 other crazy people called Ragnar. I don’t know how many miles I ran, but I am sure it is the most I have ever run in one year. The goal for 2013 is an Ironman 70.3 or half distance triathlon.

Swimming – I am not Missy Franklin or Michael Phelps, but I love to swim. On January 10th, 2012, I started a masters swim class which changed my world. This would be the spark that would lead me to run triathlons. I ran my first triathlon since college in Decatur, AL in July. It was so much fun. At the end of the summer I swam an olympic distance relay with Amazon and Snapper as my teammates, and oh by the way, we took second as a relay team. Not because of me, but because of my teammates!

Florida – I visited Florida a record four times in 2012. The first time was for a Youth Preparedness Conference in Orlando. I was there to talk about Be Ready Camp; however, the highlight of this trip was Mouse and Marguerite Long at Friday’s near my hotel. Trip two was Tampa for a Yankees Spring Training game where I saw Mariano Rivera pitch two outs in the fifth inning. His season was cut short in Kansas City shagging fly balls. This was my Tampa highlight. In August, I spent a few days with my brother in Destin. Just a few days with my family on the beach was magical! Finally, the Magic Kingdom. After recruiting at ERAU at Daytona Beach, I finished my year with my buddy Mouse near Cinderella’s castle. Enough said… my time in Florida was special!

Peyton Manning Returning to the NFL – Honestly, I had so many emotions last January when it was apparent that my long time boy friend Peyton Manning would not be the starting quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts any longer. He didn’t play in the 2011 season due to a neck injury. There was a part of me that wanted Peyton to retire from the game all together. I didn’t want to see him less than great! I tried thinking of every option for Manning. I imaged Peyton in a Cardinals, Miami, Texans, and Titians jersey and helmet. I was resigned to watching Peyton wherever he ended up and turn my back on Mr. Luck and the Colts. Fortunately, Peyton landed on his feet with his “laser rocket arm” in Denver. He has had an MVP caliber season in his orange and blue. Lets hope that in 2013 we can celebrate something more for number 18!

Ragnar – This was most definitely a highlight of 2012. I ran with my team, I slept with my team, and I even cried with my team. Nothing can really top spending 30 hours in a van with some of your closest friends and heroes. I am sure if we didn’t have Amazon it would have taken our team 48 hours to get from Chattanooga to Nashville. In the process of this whole thing, I learned I was approaching the old lady stage of my life. Check out our video from the adventure. VIDEO LINK

To everyone who has played a part in my life past and present, THANK YOU! I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store!